Therapy has made things worse

Discussion in 'Therapy and Medication' started by Marvin1971, Mar 15, 2016.

  1. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    I have trouble with depression and PTSD. I have tried numerous therapists and therapies but nothing has helped at all; in fact the therapy has helped make life considerable more difficult for me. In addition, I am now somewhat traumatized by the experiences.

    I have spoken to my doctor about this but she is stumped. I have emailed someone at the British Association of Counselors and Psychotherapists who is supposed to offer advice to people who have had bad therapy experiences. Unfortunately she had never come across someone who had seen so many therapists; all she could suggest was that I go back and see yet one more.

    I am doing very badly and don't need anyone making it even worse for me; in fact, I desperately need some effective help.
  2. ThePhantomLady

    ThePhantomLady Safety and Support SF Supporter

    Hi and welcome to the forum @Marvin1971 , perhaps you need a different kind of therapy? Have you tried coping based therapies like DBT? It's really worth looking into.
    I suggested it to my boyfriend who felt his regular therapy wasn't getting him where he wants to be... he's still waiting to get started. But I am convinced it's worth a try and can help in how you deal with the attacks and strong reactions the PTSD gives you. I am also waiting on starting DBT therapy again for my own problems.

    Part of PTSD is that your brain has learned to associate some things with extreme danger due to your trauma and DBT (or similar) can teach your brain new ways to handle those triggers that are much more safe and healthy.

    I hope it gets better for you! *Hugs*
  3. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    Hi Marvin. Welcome to SF! I'm sorry you are having a tough time of things! *hug*

    Therapy can be hard because people usually end up talking about the things that hurt or traumatized them. Have the therapists taken a long time talking to you before you get into the really painful issues, or did they hurry you into talking about stuff? If you were to say, "This is hard for me to talk about," would the therapist slow down a bit?

    It's a delicate balance learning how to talk and think about traumas we've experienced and finding ways to not let them continue to affect us. ThePhantomLady makes an excellent point that a coping-skills-based therapy might be helpful. Even if you cannot get a therapist with that specialty right away, there is information on the internet and a number of books and workbooks for DBT, mindfulness, relaxation that you might try for now.

    Keep us posted on how you're doing. I'll be thinking of you and sending good wishes! :)
  4. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    Many of the really painful issues I have are the experiences with the therapists. Not all of them; but many. So it is not a question of me not wanting to face certain issues that I have from the past or something like that.

    The therapists have mostly had their own "agendas" and have coerced or pressured me into courses of action that were against my better judgement and often irrelevant to my problems. None of this has helped; some of it has actively harmed me. I have been repeatedly assured that various approaches would help me; when they haven't, I have been repeatedly blamed for them not working.

    Now, of course, the therapists only have left to them the same old approaches which have failed in the past and often made matters worse. It doesn't stop a fair number of them insisting that I go down that route again. So I have to stop them otherwise I would be subjected to even more harmful treatments.
  5. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    Oh, dear. I'm afraid you're right - I thought the PTSD referred to previous issues. I'm truly sorry to hear that some of the therapists have been the ones actually hurting you.

    When I am at my low points, I feel like NOTHING will work and that everybody is "telling me what to do." And when it doesn't work, I want to scream at them, "See, that didn't help!?!" Sometimes, though, what has been suggested DOES help to my genuine but happy surprise. I think sometimes therapists offer "any and all ideas" because they're hoping that something will help even if that possibility is remote. Sadly, in your situation, it seems that hope has been misplaced and it hurt you. :(

    Do you have an idea of the sort of therapy/support you think could help you? What would that look like if you could design your own therapy, so to speak?
  6. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    Thanks for your reply by the way.

    There are some things which I am traumatized by which preceeded therapy. And there are some things which I am now traumatized by which I have been walked into by the therapists while I have been telling them that they were walking me into trouble. And I am now also traumatized by the therapeutic experiences themselves.

    I am traumatized by events that have completely stitched me up. And I am depressed by the same events and the circumstances which have unfolded subsequently. And I never asked for nor wanted therapy. But I went to a doctor once to discuss some sleeping tablets and he sent me to a psychologist and it went downhill from there. The therapists could never believe that I might be depressed and upset about some really problematic events. So, for example, while my education and career prospects were vanishing down the drain, I had a psychiatrist who wanted to delve into my non-existant adolescent homoerotic fantasies over the rugby captain at my school. It was absurd. And so it has gone on for years until I now have no job, no job prospect, am running out of money and am in serious trouble.

    So the answer to your question is that I never wanted therapy. And I never want it in the future. I wanted some help with the problems which have turned my life upside down. Now I can't get help with those problems because time has past, much of it spent in various forms of therapy because "experts" insisted that that is what I needed.
  7. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    I'm glad you posted and vented your feelings of anger and frustration with the system. You seemed to have hit a full basket of bad-egg therapists. I can see how that would hurt and frustrate you. Maybe those feelings are so strong right now. you cannot see beyond that for the moment. That's understandable when we feel we're hitting a wall.

    There are good egg therapists out there, although therapy doesn't seem to be a path you want to explore.

    There is always a chance that things will get better. Time that has passed is gone - true enough - but there is now and there is the future, so maybe look at those, instead of looking behind you. How could life be better for you now? What do you think needs to happen to make it better? How would you like us to help you with that?
  8. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    I expect there are good therepists out there. I expect I have seen some of them; I have, after all, seen over 70 so odds alone say that I must have seen some who would be considered good. In fact, many of the ones I have seen have been recommended as very good. So something has gone very horribly wrong and I think that it is a problem with therapy in general.

    That said - I have no idea what I am supposed to do when I am left damaged and traumatized by the very process that is supposed to help. It is a double whammy. In fact it is a triple whammy: therapy hasn't helped; it has actually made matters worse; and it has distracted from things which might have actually helped. Hence, I guess my post on here to see if anyone had an idea.

    I am looking at the present and looking at the future. The present is very painful; the future looks even worse. In fact, the best anyone seems to be able to suggest is that I repeat the very experiences which kicked off all my problems in the first place and caused the original nightmares I still have. I am finding that an unbearable thought. And that - in turn - is driving the repeated nightmares of the past, including now nightmares about therapy. People tell me that it is hard to see things better when you are feelign depressed; trouble is, other people I turn to for assistance - family, career help etc - are all stumped.

    I guess I have been partly searching for someone who knows what on earth you do when you are further harmed by the people supposed to help. I can simply not go to them of course -and I won't - but that doesn't help matters; it just avoids further harm.
  9. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    You sound stuck. That's a hard place to be, and I'm sorry you seem to be stuck.

    Maybe other people don't know what to say to you and feel stumped because everything they offer is problematic for you in some way. It's hard to offer suggestions and be met with "Yes, but..." every time. Therapy to overcome emotional roadblocks is the usual solution, yet for you, it is a problem in itself.

    Therapy is often painful. It might have been bad therapists, it might have been that you were overwhelmed by that discomfort. Or a combination...?

    Given how much you're hurting, I would suggest trying therapy again, but with a very relaxed, open, caring therapist who is willing to "work with you," by listening to your reasons for not trusting therapy, and then developing goals and treatment plan with you. If that is not going to work for you, I really don't know what to say. The one caveat is that you need to believe in the merit of the treatment. If we don't think it's worthwhile, we have a tendency to sabotage therapy. That's a fairly common human thing. :(

    Again, I'm sorry you're stuck. It's kind of in your court what you will do, I guess. *shrugs*
  10. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    So I appreciate you getting back to me again but I am kind of alarmed by your reply because it is inadvertently repeating what the therapists do. It may be hard to hear "yes, but ..." to a suggestion. It is even harder for me to hear absurd suggestions or the same suggestions that I have already tried several times.
    Please think about this: what would you suggest I do if someone suggested something which I have tried and has failed. I could say "Thanks - that is a good idea" and then go away and ignore the idea. I could say "Thanks - that is a good idea" and try it again and put myself through more pain when it unsurprisingly fails. Or I could say "Thanks but that hasn't worked". The first two options don't help anybody. The third option allows someone to try to suggest something which might REALLY work.

    You say it is hard to offer suggestions and hear "yes but...." Well, it is really not anything like as hard as what I am going through. And it shouldn't be so hard for a therapist who is going to be paid $150 or so for the session.

    You say that the caveat is that you need to believe in the merit of the treatment. WHen this is said, it sounds to me suspiciously close to suggesting that the treatment is largely a placebo effect. And it sets everybody up to blame me if and when the therapy doesn't work: "Of course it didn't work because you had the wrong attitude". Sometimes therapy doesn't work because it is totally inappropriate.
  11. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    There is no "blame" in any of this - not intended anyway. Some therapy doesn't work because it's inappropriate, and some therapy doesn't work because the client's heart and mind are closed to it. Both are possible reasons for ineffective therapeutic results. A positive attitude to therapy is more helpful in therapy than starting off with the idea "this isn't going to work." If we don't believe it could work, we've almost guaranteed that it won't.

    I'm sad to see that you expect to said, "[so I] try it again and put myself through more pain when it unsurprisingly fails." Unsurprisingly fails. That's hard. :( I understand completely about trying something we've tried before and it didn't work, so we're reluctant to try it again. One failure (even several) doesn't mean something will always fail for us. Therapy and really integrating the new insights and emotional ground take more than one discussion about it with a therapist. It might take months or years depending on the therapeutic model being used. If therapy itself was a problem, then finding a good therapist who understands that could be helpful. And as the client, you'd need to be ready to accept that therapy could help. A strong relationship with a therapist can make a huge difference. I know that idea is hard for you because you don't trust them right now. :(

    On the other hand, is it a little bit possible that perhaps you're not looking for answers/suggestions, but you're really upset and frustrated and actually are hoping more for an ear and heart to hear you? We can do that. Peer-to-peer support. I'm happy to encourage you!

    I hope you do get some new suggestions. I'm out of ideas, myself. The most I can offer you now is support: I'm sorry things are so rough for you and I hope you keep searching for a way through. Take care and stay safe!
  12. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    I take you at your word that you are not assigning blame. But many of the therapists I have seen definitely have and that is particularly outrageous given that I felt the therapeutic approaches were not a great idea to start with. I have only ever heard one answer from therapists and that is that therapy hasn't worked because of my attitude. But - as you point out - therapy can fail because it is inappropriate.

    I have seen over 70 therapists so it is highly unlikely that the next one will be different. I regret ever going to a therapist in the first place; it was an horrendous mistake although I was sent along by my doctor rather than going of my own accord. Once you get involved, it is hard to get out, especially when they insist that you need to keep doing it.

    You say that you are sad that I expect to fail. Well yes - when an approach has no rationale to it and has been tried before, it is unlikely to succeed again. I would ask you, for example, how many times should I try the same antidepressant, when it has had no beneficial effect ? I was on Paroxetine in the past and it had no beneficial effect but I did make a suicide attempt when I was on it. Paroxetine is now know to increase the risk of young people committing or attempting suicide. I could try it again - there are psychiatrists who would prescribe it to me. It is highly unlikely to work and I may actually end up dead next time. Or I could go back to another psychoanalyst and re-visit the question of my non-existent homoerotic adolescent fantasies but seeing as they are non-existent, it is highly unlikely to be of any benefit whatsoever. Or I could try group therapy where everyone else has an eating disorder which I have never suffered from in any way. It was crazy the first time and it would be crazy the second time. And regarding insights into my problems: therapy has provided me with absolutely none. More than 70 therapists over more than 25 years and they have provided no insights whatsoever; rather they have muddied the waters, and foisted much of questionable and dubious value on me. And from my past experiences, it is entirely up to me to make sure I don't get further damaged by inappropriate therapy because I know from painful experience that therapists will happily push me into inappropriate and potentially harmful directions and will take no responsibility if it goes wrong.

    You are right that I am upset and frustrated but I am also looking for answers which do not involve further therapy because that would be plain nuts. Unfortunately most people suggest more of the same and that is very puzzling and deeply troubling.
  13. JmpMster

    JmpMster Have a question? Message Me Staff Member Forum Owner ADMIN

    In the end, it does not matter why the therapy did not work for you if it did not work. Even if it was as the therapists' implied (and to be frank what does seem to come from your explanations) because of "your attitude and beliefs", that is what you have to work with and there is no magic button to change that so if it does not work for you it does not and it doe seem that for now you have given it a reasonable shot. On some levels I can relate as I had several types of therapy at my local VA and found it to be more frustrating than helpful myself. On the same token, having been here for years, plus seeing how well it worked for my daughter, I cannot believe that is useless or harmful in general. You are an individual, not an "in general" so finding something to help YOU is the key.

    I do not have a direct simple answer or advice on this right now because I am unsure what you are trying to achieve or what constitutes "help" to you. I may well not have if I did, but if you could explain a little about what issue (not label of ptsd or depression or whatever but specifically what things you want to have or feel differently) then I or somebody here might be able to offer some specific suggestions to those specific issues to try to make things at leas a little better for you in general. I would certainly be happy to try if you felt like sharing what feelings or actions or emotions you wanted to change or to have different in your life. I cannot cure depression or PTSD or I would not have ever been here myself, but I have come up with a fair number of methods to make things a lot more bearable and less painful for myself in both areas and am sure others have as well so maybe working on the small symptoms to make the overall quality of life could be of some benefit?

    Take Care and Be Safe
    - Ben
  14. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    I think that most non-professional people offer what they know about - meds and therapy. And professionals offer an educated suggestion about the specific meds a person could take and the specific type of therapy that might help.

    You say you didn't achieve any insights with 70 therapists in 25 years. Broken down, that means you had about 8.9 sessions on average with each of them. Depending on the type of therapy (group or one-on-one), maybe 9 sessions was not long enough to get into the deep issues to find the insights. Overall, I do think it's sad that you "expect to fail" no matter what your justification for feeling that way is. Expecting to fail is a hard place to live.

    The bottom line, Marvin, is that I don't have more to offer. I can offer you support and only support - I'm sorry life is rough for you. (I will not offer more suggestions or comments because this back and forth about things is not helping you or me. They are clearly not the suggestions you want, and we are going in circles here. If you want "support" I'm happy to give you that. I cannot offer you more.)
  15. Freya

    Freya Loves SF Staff Member ADMIN SF Author

    Marvin - clearly therapy is not the answer for you and that is fine - you don't want to delve into what you consider to be non-existent adolescent problems and that is fine. But you still want support and help - which is also understandable. Maybe you need to look for another kind of support and help. If you want practical solutions for changing and improving your life - making the most of the choices you feel you have been left with (having had some taken away from you) and moving forward. Perhaps you need to look at a Life Coach or a group dedicated to that kind of positive 'moving forward' philosophy. I live in the UK and there are lots of the latter on - you may have to travel a little to a biggish town or city to attend but at least in the UK that is generally not far.

    The fact is that you clearly have some strong opinions about what is and is not helpful for you - which is great since it means that you can start looking for something that has a chance of helping. If therapy is damaging to you then do not go - obviously. Lots of people (especially in the UK) manage PTSD and depression without therapy, simply by necessity since there are so few here. I am surprised you even found 70 therapists, let alone got to see them! The point though is that while therapy definitely helps some people with PTSD and Depression, people also manage them without therapy, so by choosing not to have therapy you still have every chance at improving your situation.

    I understand you feel that you have been left with limited options as a result of therapy - but the great thing about options is that each one leads to more - once you decide to move forward, more paths unfold. My suggestion (since you are looking for non-therapy related suggestions) is to stop dwelling on the therapy and the issues with it - it is in the past - you don't intend to do more - so stop focusing on it. Focus on the future and moving in a direction you want to go in. Box off the therapy experience and go explore Life Coaching, explore Motivational and Self Starter groups (there are lots of peer wellness and mindfullness groups too - no therapist involved) and most importantly, explore ways to help yourself move forward and stop dwelling on the things in the past that damaged you.
    MisterBGone likes this.
  16. AdamTide

    AdamTide Well-Known Member

    First off things CAN get better. Think as positively as you can. You have it within you to overcome all this. Find something you enjoy and focus on it. Whether it be music or writing or singing or exercising or reading or riding around or comedy or just whatever. Get GOOD out of each day. Listen to some comforting, uplifting music. Rockabye by Shawn Mullins is a good one. In it he sings "everything's gonna be alright. " A comforting song is Breathe by Anna Nalick. She sings "cradle your head in your hands and breathe just breathe". Listen to It Won't Be Like This For Long by Darius Rucker. In it he sings about how just because you're going through a hard time at the moment doesn't mean it can't or won't get better. It CAN get better and YOU can cause it to be that way. Do your very best and things will work out in the end. You WILL be ok.
  17. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    I am not sure where you get 8.9 sessions from on average, but of course I had a lot of sessions with some and far fewer with others.

    I think where we differ is that you think it is sad that I have a preconceived notion that therapy will fail; and I see not repeating things that don't work as learning from mistakes. You say that expecting to fail is a hard place to be; not learning from mistakes is a hard way to live too.

    And this is part of why I won't go back to therapists, because they will take this approach until the day I die, taking all my money, offering little of help and insisting that it is my fault if it fails to work.
  18. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    I guess what I should have been clearer about in my very first post was that, in addition to the original problems I was sent to therapy over, I am now somewhat traumatized by the experiences in therapy themselves, including having nightmares about it. As therapy has been completely unsuccessful at alleviating any of my difficulties including other stuff that I am traumatized about, it is unlikely to help with the troubles caused by therapy itself. So my original post was really asking what one does about the specific question of therapy having made matters worse, when obviously it makes no sense to seek a remedy from the system that has worsened matters.
  19. JmpMster

    JmpMster Have a question? Message Me Staff Member Forum Owner ADMIN

    Forget therapy - you said it does not work, and a couple people have offered to try to offer advice or help in other area. What do you want advice or support in dealing with ? Is it nightmares that are the issue in general or just sadness /depression, anxiety? Since therapy is not your solution let s talk about what you want help with (not details or discussing what what happened- that is therapy) - the specific symptoms from the ptsd or the depression that are making things difficult for you right now. Maybe somebody can help you in ways to deal with those things.
  20. Marvin1971

    Marvin1971 Active Member

    It is a complicated problem. Regarding my mental health, I feel traumatized, I have nightmares, I am depressed although I think perhaps it is more like PTSD than depression. Most of this is due to my circumstances. I have been unemployed for several years. Prior to that I had a job that I hated so badly that I would leave work in tears. So of course I have sought help and advice from career counselors, employment centers etc. None of them have any idea how to assist me. The only suggestions seem to be that I either try to get a dead end job to make ends meet; or that I go back to university and retrain. The trouble is neither option is practical; in addition, these are the two things I already suffer from nightmares over (my last job and my time studying). So I am looking at a future where I might have to repeat the things which I am already traumatized about. That is an awful prospect.

    The circumstances, I think, are driving the mental health problems. The more I seem to be looking at terrible options, the more nightmares I have about the past. This is now including nightmares about my time in therapy. The therapists have repeatedly assured me that I would not be in the situation I am in.